On Remembrance Day we are asked to think about war and those who gave their lives for our freedoms. That’s not a bad idea. Yet, I can’t help thinking about a very current war. One that is far from over even though it was “declared” more than 2 decades ago—the war on terror. This in turn led directly to the war in Afghanistan that took 20 years until the Americans who initiated it, packed their tents and went home, leaving behind hundreds of millions of dollars in equipment and carrying with them memories of thousands of injured and lost lives and more than a trillion dollars paid by American taxpayers for not much of value in return.
I am not a pacifist. At least technically. Like Obama said, “we should avoid dumb wars.” And I agree. I just think they are pretty well all dumb wars.
So why can’t we celebrate those who helped us avoid wars or at least did their best to save us from the dumb wars? I think of Bertrand Russell who went to jail in World War I because he refused to serve in what he thought (rightly so) was a dumb war. I think World War I was one of the dumbest. As the song goes, “War—what is it good for? Absolutely nothing.” In his autobiography Russell wrote about the people in London at Trafalgar Square who turned out in delirious celebratory joy when England declared war on Germany in 1914. Soon after that the dead soldiers began to pile up and again without much accomplished. Let’s remember Bertrand Russell.
Congress woman Barbara Lee was the only member of Congress to vote against going to war in Afghanistan. Some called her a traitor. She was a hero.
She said she thought long and hard about that war, and it took a while for her to come to a decision. She said when she spoke in Congress about whether to go to war she thought about what she had heard Reverend Nathan Baxter say in his opening invocation at the memorial service at Washington Cathedral 3 days after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Baxter prayed this: “Let us also pray for divine wisdom as our leaders consider the necessary actions for national security, wisdom of the grace of God, that as we act, we not become the evil we deplore.”
That was wisdom unlike the loud clamorous demands for revenge and war. Let’s remember Barbara Lee today.
I do not object to remembering the men and women who fell in battle trying to defend our liberties. They made the supreme sacrifice after all. If the wars were dumb that was not their fault. Their country asked for their service and they gave it wholeheartedly.
I just want to think about those as well who tried to keep us out of wars. No one is going around selling poppies to remember them.